Marketing and public relations (PR) are at the core of how companies build and maintain their client base. Professionals in marketing and PR design and implement marketing and public relations campaigns, and incorporate the latest insights and technological developments in marketing and customer experience management into these campaigns. They also assess consumers’ responses to their companies’ outreach efforts, and advise other departments within their company regarding product and service positioning.
Master’s in communication programs with a specialization in PR and/or marketing train students to create and execute on a wide variety of marketing and public relations initiatives. These programs include courses in public relations writing, client experience assessment and management, marketing content production and analytics, consumer research, advertising campaigns, and other strategies for building a company’s brand and fostering a connection between companies and their consumers. MastersinCommunications.com groups these two related programs together as it is not uncommon for master’s in communication programs to offer specializations that focus on both PR and marketing; however, there are programs that offer distinct specializations that focus on one more than the other.
Public Relations vs Marketing Communication
Public relations and marketing are distinct from each other, in that marketing is typically defined as advertising and other types of content that promote a company’s products or services. Public relations is concerned with a company’s relationship with the public, its target consumers, and other corporations; it also concerns a company’s maintenance of a positive reputation and brand identity. While distinct, PR and marketing overlap with and rely on each other in organizations of all sizes and in all industries. Ethical and effective marketing practices are an important component of a sound public relations strategy, and a positive company image borne from savvy PR practices provides a good foundation for a successful marketing strategy.
Individuals who complete a master’s degree in PR and/or marketing communication can find work in a wide variety of for-profit and non-profit environments as marketing and/or public relations specialists, social and digital media managers, brand specialists, and directors of marketing. The knowledge and skills students develop during their program are also applicable to other roles that are not specifically in the fields of marketing and public relations, but which require a strong understanding of customer-facing communication, as well as consumer psychology.
The Advent of Integrated Marketing Communications
In recent years, there has been increased emphasis on understanding how different forms of communication–including public relations, traditional print-based marketing channels, digital marketing strategies and analytics, and social media work together to shape a company’s relationship with its various stakeholders. This emphasis on a holistic approach to marketing that incorporates new technologies and different channels of communication between a company and its various brands, consumers, investors, and other parties is known as Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC).
To accommodate this shift in many companies’ marketing strategies, numerous schools are offering master’s in communication programs with an IMC emphasis. These programs are similar to master’s in communication programs with a marketing, public relations, and/or strategic communication emphasis, and may even be seen as a graduate program that sits at the intersection of these three fields. Courses for master’s programs in IMC are often equivalent or similar to those of master’s programs in PR, marketing, and strategic communication.
Curriculum Details for Master’s in Communication Programs with a Specialization in Public Relations and/or Marketing
Master’s in communication programs in public relations and marketing typically begin with a core set of classes that cover advanced concepts in strategic communication, such as persuasive writing, communication laws and ethics, and research in communication. After completing the core curriculum of their program, students focus on courses that train them specifically in PR and marketing strategy. These classes cover in detail the latest theories and methods for effective public relations and marketing across different channels, including website content, email marketing, press releases, social media, and more. While course titles and content may vary from program to program, in general, students complete classes such as:
- The Theory and Practice of Public Relations: The organizational and communication principles that serve as the foundation of public relations for companies and organizations. How to manage the interests of different stakeholders within and outside of the company through tactful and relevant communication.
- Integrated Marketing Practices and Principles: How to combine all types of marketing communication, including advertising, brand identity, public relations, social media, and sales to create an integrated experience for customers and clients. How to adjust a company’s integrated marketing strategy over time by coordinating with different departments to unify a company’s message and outreach efforts.
- Digital and Data-Driven Marketing and Analytics: The latest developments in digital marketing and consumer data collection and analytics. How to gather and analyze data on consumers’ online search behavior, social media behavior, and customer experience and responses to marketing initiatives. Concepts such as search engine optimization, paid search, social media marketing, content marketing initiatives, public relations, and email marketing, and how to incorporate them into a marketing campaign.
- Public Relations for For-Profit and Non-Profit Organizations: How to manage public relations for a variety of organizations in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, including how to craft press releases, manage public outreach initiatives, and collaborate with company leaders to develop and convey a corporate identity. How for-profit and non-profit organizations differ in structure and mission, and how these differences impact their PR strategy.
- Media, Technology, and Economics: The structure of media and marketing businesses and how they aggregate audiences and measure their response to different types of media and messaging. How the fields of media production and news are merging with commercial messaging, and how this merging impacts companies’ marketing strategies. How marketing and public relations professionals can hone their digital storytelling skills to match the needs and interests of their target audiences who are increasingly using laptops, tablets, and mobile phones to consume content and make purchasing decisions.
- Designing Media and Marketing Campaigns: The components of an effective marketing campaign. How to tailor one’s media and marketing campaign according to the needs and interests of one’s target audience. Using multiple types of media to create effective messaging for targeted consumers and to maintain a positive brand presence.
- Crisis Communication: The different types of crisis situations that individuals, communities, and organizations encounter, and how communication professionals can manage these crisis through clear, timely, ethical, and actionable communication. Different crisis scenarios are discussed, such as natural disasters, accidents, leadership issues, and product recalls, and how to create public-facing and internal communications that support the community, preserve a company’s reputation, and/or promote employee engagement or consumer satisfaction and trust.
Below is an example of a curriculum plan for a student pursuing a two-year course of study in a master’s in communication program with an emphasis in PR and marketing. Please note that the plan below is an example only, and that programs can vary in terms of their course content, titling, and sequencing. In addition, many master’s in communication programs provide students with a degree of flexibility in the order in which they complete their concentration classes. Typically, master’s in communication programs with a focus in PR and/or Marketing require the completion of between 30 and 60 course credits, which students can fulfill in between 12 and 24 months of full-time study, or 24 to 36 months of part-time study.
2-Year Sample Curriculum Plan in Public Relations and Marketing
|Core Courses:||Core Courses:||Core Course:
|Concentration Courses:||Concentration Courses:||Concentration Courses:
Students should also note that, while some master’s in communication programs provide specific specializations in marketing and/or public relations, there are also programs that allow their students to specialize in a different area of communication while taking some electives in marketing or public relations. For example, master’s in communication programs with a specialization in media studies often have overlapping coursework with PR and marketing programs. In addition, master’s in strategic communication programs typically have some coursework in marketing and public relations as well.
Potential Careers for Master’s in PR and Marketing Communication
All organizations that require a customer or member base, from large corporations to startups and non-profit organizations, require an effective marketing strategy for their products and services. These organizations also need to build and maintain a positive reputation and good relationships with various stakeholders. Individuals who are trained in marketing and PR practices and principles can find work at a wide variety of companies of various sizes, as well as non-profit associations. Most commonly, these individuals find work in marketing and/or public relations departments of companies, but they can also work in almost any department that concerns company identity, consumer affairs, or business-to-business relationships.
- Directors of Public Relations: Directors of public relations are in charge of developing and executing on strategies that create and maintain a company’s positive public image, as well as its relationship with various stakeholders, including investors, other corporations, and specific sectors of their consumer base. They also supervise larger teams of public relations specialists and staff, overseeing the projects underway in their department and consulting with heads of their company to create a long-term public relations strategy that aligns with the company’s desired identity and goals.
- Marketing Directors: Marketing directors focus on developing advertising and other consumer facing content around a company’s product or service. They may create the concept for and oversee the design and dissemination of a product launch video, or they may oversee the creation of text and images for an online advertisement. They also design and oversee online content projects that aim to reach their desired consumers online via paid advertising and organic content that readers find via search engines. Marketing directors make use of marketing technologies such as search engine marketing analytics software, customer experience management technologies, and consumer behavior analytics to shape marketing strategies that appeal to their customer base.
- Marketing Specialists: Marketing specialists typically work under the supervision of marketing directors, and are the executors of different stages of a marketing campaign. Their daily responsibilities may include completing consumer research in order to create well-timed and relevant marketing strategies, writing online content that ranks well in popular search engines, writing marketing materials that give customers the information they need to make a transactional decision, or designing logos for a product advertising campaign. Throughout their work, marketing specialists use data gathering and analytics technologies in order to evaluate the impact of their marketing initiatives on consumer behavior and the perception of their company’s brand(s), so that they can adjust their strategies accordingly.
- Directors of Consumer Affairs: Directors of consumer affairs are in charge of handling consumers’ challenges with their company’s product or services. They educate the public about their products, answer customer queries, and troubleshoot issues such as client complaints or confusion regarding a product or service. While marketing tends to be a more proactive field, consumer affairs tends to be more reactive in that consumer affairs directors and specialists solve customer problems through effective communication.